Friday, 29 July 2011

Power To Destroy

I have just spent a pleasant while listening to a CDr bootleg copy of the 1993 compilation "Power To Destroy", originally released as a2xC60 tape package on the UK Lebensborn (Liveborn) label. One of Trev Ward's labels (I think). I have no idea who put out the bootleg, I've had this for quite a while....
I like compilations. I have mentioned that before - whether they are documenting the sound of an area, a venue, a genre, a label - I am always keen to hear. Most compilations have "hidden gems" and "Power To Destroy" is no exception. Strangely enough Tony Wilson mentioned in the book "Shadowplayers" that he disliked the compilation but two of my favourites are "A Factory Sample" and "A Factory Quartet"...but there y'go.
"Power To Destroy" is a great document of who was doing what in the underground tape / noise scene in 1993 rather like the Harbinger Sound 3xLP compilation "...And The Vultures Miss Nothing" is a great document of noise artists in the late 1990's, a few names are shared on both releases; Thirdorgan, Smell & Quim, Taint and Con-Dom. Some of the names on the compilation I have never heard of, like the first band Final Solution. "Right To Hate" is a re-write of Whitehouses' "Right To Kill". Straight forward, no messing Whitehouse copyists. A poor man's Intrinsic Action. M. Behrens follows with a track of "performance noise" (I have just invented a genre - audio for a visual). It all starts with a wall of noise with tape splices and distant voices then builds into a great rhythm. The sound of Controlled Bleeding and Throbbing Gristle is hidden in this track and speaking of Throbbing Gristle track 3 by Agony For Pleasure could have come straight off an early TG live tape. It's the bass guitar sound and screaming. Excellent stuff. Glenn Wallis and Konstruktivists offer a track of guitar and a Dr. Rhythm beat with phazer (pedal) on stun. Excellent track, but then again Konstruktivists are excellent. The track ends up sounding like an early Clock DVA tape. Track 5 is Sudden Infant with his noise will eat itself sound. Noise spliced and mashed into a cacophony. Mauthausen Orchestra follow with "Kill The P.A.S.T." a track in three parts. First two are rhythmic, the sound being akin to the "gunshot" sound on an old Korg MS10. The third part is built of drums and sequencer and a sound that wouldn't be out of place on an old Portion Control LP. Good stuff. Unfortunately Con-Dom provide a "lo-fi" live recording. It's kind of murky and gets lost, like the next track "Melt The Cube" by Ramleh. This is the sound of Ramleh in their "Grudge For Life" period. Guitar, synth and vocals. It does sound like a Swell Maps 45 played at 33 rpm. The first CDr ends with Family Of Noise. Named after the great Adam & The Ants song? "Upwards And Outwards" is a dark gothesque piece with militaristic drums and bass guitar with moaning vocals, it brought into (my) mind Hunting Lodge.
CDr two starts with a really weak track by Genocide Organ. Shouty shouty vocals over a really trebley bass and beaten tin. Nothing like the sound of Genocide Organ in the 21st century. follow with more "performance noise". A very long piece of synth noise over scrambled guitar. The recording sounds live. The album really picks up with "Terror Intensifies" by Academy 23 & The Grey Wolves. Academy 23 are Andy Martin and Dave Fanning from The Apostles and the cartoonist Lawrence Burton. This track is one of the hidden gems. A Teutonic voice is manipulated through a variety of effects, mainly delays, reverb and phasing. Electronic noises swirl in the background. Track 4 is either called "Exit" or is an untitled piece by Exit. It lasts 10 seconds. "Cunnilinguaphone" by Smell & Quim is a great track. A dark and moody nightmarescape very atmospheric and it reminded me of how bloody good Smell & Quim were in the early 1990's. (Must dig out my copy of "Jissom Killers" soon). The second offering from Family Of Noise is more manipulated voice, the compilation has got very "dark" over the last three tracks but then Taint and Dada X break that with offerings of one dimensional noise. Marc Behrens and the strangely titled "Splatterdance 2" picks up interest with a really fast moving track. High powered electronics - mic'ed up water (?) and birdsong all joined by a rhythm that sounds like the flapping of a birds wing. The track has a direction a concept and purpose which is more than can be said of Taint or Dada X. The Behrens track brought Column One to mind. The second piece by Sudden Infant is the closest thing to JapNoise on this album. 1993 and the great JapNoise boom was just about happening (?). Nails Ov Christ - the splinter group from The Grey Wolves - offer a "lo-fi" live recording of guitar and vocals through a Roland Space Echo. The album finishes with JapNoise band Third Organ and "Fuck Your Organs". If released today then The Wire would claim it as HNW, but to me it is just N.
Did the original cassette come with a booklet?

1: "Power To Destroy" Cover.
2: Lebensborn Logo.
3: "Power To Destroy" Track Listing.

Thursday, 28 July 2011


I have been in correspondence with a friend in Sweden over the past few weeks, a discussion started about the Manchester based band Tools You Can Trust and it somehow (via Soviet France) brought up the topic of Nottingham based group Tactile, so I dug out my Tactile CD's (all two of them) and gave them a listen.
Although very good and not at all dated Tactile's sound comes from a very different time. Music in the early 1990's was all over the place with new genres and niches being created on a monthly basis. "Ambient" was a buzz word, a marketable sound and could be prefixed by words like "Dark" and "Experimental" and "Organic" by the marketeers. Virgin came along, trying to capture the underground zeitgeist and brought us "Isolationism". The Wire Magazine (turn round three times and spit) helped create the sound...there was K.K. Null, Lull, Total, Zoviet*France, E.A.R., Aphex Twin, Final and a bunch of others.
Although not featured on the "Isolationism" CD Tactile fitted perfectly into this genre. John Everall (head Tactile honcho) had already released the album "Pathogenesis" as Multicide on the D.O.R. label in 1993, and before that was a member of Hole - the band who were on Eyas Media. not Courtney Love's bunch.
"Inscape" was released in 1996 on John's own Sentrax Corporation label. At this time Tactile were John, Teresa Mills and Dael Walker. The sound is minimal but strangely unnerving - Tactile on "Inscape" is not a passive sound, electronic throbs and pulses create a foreboding floor whilst an electronic equivalent of escaping gas / scotch mist floats around the room. There are 5 tracks on the album but they could quite of easily been one long soundtrack. "Inscape" is an overlooked classic. 1997 brought about "Recurrence And Intervention" (on Rawkus). Here we have projects such as Coil, Eyeless In Gaza, Zoviet*France, Scorn and James Plotkin remix the "Inscape" album. It is a nice idea with some pretty good names but the album doesn't quite work for me. The "remixers" impose their sound too much leaving Tactile way too low down in the sound. Two more albums followed; "Borderlands" & "Bipolar Explorer" but I haven't heard them. I saw Tactile live in Nottingham in 1997 supporting Silver Apples (we share something in common), they had Karl Blake guesting on guitar but it didn't really work out. I was given a mixing desk copy of their gig at the Fylkingen in Stockholm for possible CDr release on the shortly lived Mouth Label, but finance problems got in the way.

Back in the 1990's I got to know John a little. I met him through Teresa, I enjoyed their company and they both helped me out when I became homeless in 1997. Fond memories of evenings drinking ourselves blind and talking complete and utter bollocks.
My Swedish friend is going to mail me a copy of Minimal Self "Formula Of Reversal" CD, John's 2004 album - I am looking forward.

1: "Inscape" cover. (The plug-hole from the "Psycho" shower scene).
2: "Inscape" CD.
3: John (right) and Pete (Of Nottingham band Six Fingered Cousin. left) shout whilst Teresa watches TV. (1997).
4: John in The Grovesnor Pub on Mansfield Road.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Most of July has been spent reading the very readable "Shadowplayers:The Rise And Fall Of Factory Records" by James Nice. After already having read the book "From Joy Division To New Order:The Factory Story" by Mick Middles (the guy that invented "The Movement With No Name" back in the late 1970's) I left this book alone for a while, but then came across a review which stated that this was a definitive account not just Curtiscentic but a well researched tome into the activities of all Factory Records artistes.
I'll just point out here that originally I bought from Amazon (UK) but my copy was faulty, they mailed me another which was also faulty so I wrote to the publishers, Aurum, and they mailed me an ideal copy straight away. Amazon (UK) meanwhile have charged me for the second copy because I never posted the first or second book back - they offered a postage refund (in the form of a token) but not a packaging one. They have subsequently lost a customer.
Anyway, back to the book.
(For me) Factory Records were one of those collectible "indie" labels back in the day. Like Rough Trade Records, Small Wonder Records, New Hormones, Fast Product, Mute Records, Crass Records etc. You trusted the ear of the label to provide the goods and 9 times out of 10 they did. Opening the account with the superb "Factory Sample" EP featuring Cabaret Voltaire, Joy Division, John Dowie and The Durutti Column and quickly following with A Certain Ratio's "All Night Party" the label (by 1979) was set up and running.
The book is split into years starting (briefly) in 1976 and the catalytic performance by Sex Pistols in Manchester. A moment in time excellently covered in "I Swear I Was There" by David Nolan, and taking off in 1978 and the birth of The Factory (the club in Hulme) and the setting up of the record label.
James Nice has every moment in the history covered, all the players and peripheral characters tell the story. Although James is obviously a Factory nerd, a self confessed "fan-boy" the book never becomes self-indulgent or like a thesis of sorts. Reading it took me back to the time when Factory Records were thee label. I was never a big fan of Joy Division - I liked them, they were good..but I did prefer Section 25 and A Certain Ratio at the time. My favourite on the "Factory sample" EP was The Durutti Column but the line-up that recorded those songs split soon afterwards leaving just Vini to carry on with the name. The vocalist of The Durutti Column at this time (Colin Sharp) has written an excellent book called "Who Killed Martin Hannett". I recommend it.
The book also follows the career of Pater Saville and (strangely) Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and the birth of Factory Benelux and Les Disques Du Crepuscule, it really does leave no stone unturned in the Factory Records story. I do like the idea that after the death of Ian Curtis and the birth of New Order that Kim Wilde was seriously thought about as a replacement singer. Think what the state of the world would be like if that had happened!
I never saw a Factory band at The Factory although I did spend an evening in the club sat at a table with Tony Wilson, Bob Geldof, James Young, Pete Shelley and Derek Thompson whilst watching Martin Brahmah's post Blue Orchids band Thirst play (with Eric Random as support).
This was in 1983 and at a time when I was losing interest in Factory Records. There was only The Wake left by this time!
1982 covers the opening of The Hacienda Club, which I became a member of (for two years) in 1983. First band I saw there were the Virgin Prunes. Unforgetable. Christmas 1983, I spent my 21st at the club watching Cocteau Twins and Wolfgang Press. (The evening previous was The Gun Club and Lavolta Lakota and strangely enough these two gigs are the only ones James Nice went to). 1984 and The Hacienda was a regular haunt, especially Tuesday nights and a club night called "The End". There used to be around half a dozen folk in the place as the DJ blasted out punk / industrial / post-punk and reggae, we just used to nurse a pint for four hours and skin-up endlessly in the shadows. It was where I met a guy selling fanzines whom we nicknamed "Debris Dave" (he wanted my SPK badge, but I had to say no) - he turns up in the book as Dave Haslam, a Hacienda DJ in the 1990's. I see by the bibliography the he has written a book or two on Manchester music also, I haven't read any, but I'll try and hunt them out. Thursday gig nights were the same - an audience comprising of six men and Peter Hook at the bar. I saw Pink Military play to (roughly) six people...honest!
Best Hacienda gig? SPK (no...only kidding), The Residents & Snakefinger and Psychic TV with Ram Ram Kino...I missed The Final Academy and Dome.

The story takes a turn in the mid 1980's with the rise of "electro" music and New Order scoring a chart hit with "Blue Monday" and the following single "Confusion", and with Section 25 following behind with the flat and bland "From A Hilltop". 1984 is when I lost interest with the label. They were no longer collectible...just The Wake. It is around this time that Tony seems to fall out with his close friends and allies and Factory Records starts throwing money at impossible projects (films, art ventures, property etc). Unlike the book "Rough Trade" by Rob Young where the story gets bogged down in names and legal speak James keeps the downfall nice and easy to read.
Who killed Factory Records? "Madchester"? A Certain Ratio had gone Latino and a slight embarrassment. I saw them a few times in the 1980's as they slowly and progressively got like kitchen wallpaper. New Order I knew nothing about at the time. I recently bought the video "Substance" for 50 pence and it was awful. Bland in extremis - musically and visually and in the book the financial success of the label hung on New Order and they were just bloody awful, nothing more than a U2 support act.
As the good ship Factory sank, most jumped and with New Order splitting into separate projects the success of the label was taken over by Happy Mondays. Sink estate drug addicts. (I always preferred First Offence).

Excellent read.
James runs a label, a boutique label as he would call it, that deals in re-issueing old Factory Records releases aswell as Factory Benelux, Les Disques Du Crepuscule and New Hormones. LTM (Les Temps Modernes) has a website, so it is worth a google. The book also made me dig out an old letter I had from a James Neiss who in 1985 was just starting a label called Les Temps Modernes and he called the tape I mailed him "crap". Could it be the same bloke?

Monday, 11 July 2011


A few weeks ago I managed to get hold of a copy of "East" a compilation album released by Dead Good Records of Lincoln back in 1980. (Cat no:Good 1). I liken this slab of vinyl with the 7"EP "Too Much Is Not Enough" by Last Few Days on Touch Records. Both records I was told by friends and owners of the aforementioned vinyl (pre-internet days, mind) that because of their rarity and scarcity I would never own.
But now I do.
"East" is a great album. 31 years after release and the tracks still sound fresh. "East" is compiled of bands that were aligned to either Dead Good Records or Lincoln's "other" label at the time; Company Records. Company Records address was Fort Barnes on Rookery Lane, Lincoln, and when they re-issued Robert Rental's "A..C.C." 7" I went to hunt the place down hoping for some posters or freebies but it just turned out to be an empty warehouse, a mail drop-off address. Disappointed.
At the time of release I was quite disappointed with "East", I remember "slagging it off" to friends and anyone who'd listen. At the time I thought it was an LP to showcase the local bands of Lincoln, but myself (in the band ESP Disk-rd), my brother-in-law's band Collide and probably the best band in Lincoln in 1980, The Void, were not invited to appear on the LP. Instead there was a band from Nottingham, a band from Mansfield and two bands I'd never bloody heard of. I was 18 at the time of release. Thirty years later and I love the LP!
The Cigarettes have three tracks on the LP. The Cigarettes were (at the time) probably Lincoln's most famous band having become John Peel favourites. Despite their mod attire The Cigarettes were quite "punky" and the tracks are very reminiscent of The Cure circa first album. Also providing a trio of tracks are Nottingham's Fatal Charm. Fatal Charm played Lincoln a few times, their biggest break was probably supporting The Psychedelic Furs at The Drill Hall. Wasted Youth just never turned up! Unlike The Cigarettes, Fatal Charm have a more polished "edge" to their sound - it's post-punk pop, guitar driven songs that are great to listen to. "Stoned Loving" standing out above the rest. Lincoln's most famous Punk Band, Pseudo Existors give us two tracks. I was never a big fan of The Pseudos (as they were known locally) and never saw them live - tales of violence and a hard faction called "The Pseudo Army" put me off going to their gigs. Going to punk gigs in Lincoln in 1978/79 was too much like putting "your life in their hands" anyway without being thrown about the room by Lincoln punks. If I'd known that the aforementioned "army" was Tim Bayes, Crabby, Malc Miller and a few of their mates then I'd've probably gone! "If I knew then what I know now" as Crispy Ambulance once said. Whizz Kids give two offerings, strangely slower numbers than the "PAYE As You Earn" EP, Whizz Kids mature shock probe. In my opinion Whizz Kids were the best live band in Lincoln in 1978, I saw them loads as they were the resident band at AJ's on punk nights. If a group didn't have a support then it was Whizz Kids, Lincoln's answer to Slaughter & The Dogs. B. Movie also supply two tracks, guitar based post-punk rock, pre Stevo and stringy synth chords. "Man On A Threshold" and "Refugee" - great songs. I saw B. Movie twice. First time at a venue called "The Cornhill Vaults" (a cellar bar I have been barred from....twice) supporting The Disco Students (I think) and I really liked their sound, then a couple of years later they played "Futurama 3" and were lightweight synth-pop-pap. Shame. "East" captures them in their early stage and at their best. Singular tracks are provided by - Half Life. Half Life were a bunch of school kids from Louth (pronounced Lau-erth). They supported Collide a couple of times at The Cornhill Vaults. "Steve Biko" a political number with choppy guitars and flat singing and probably the best on the album. Sincere Americans end side 1 with "Contact". Again poppy punky new wavey type of song from a band I have never heard of. Then and/or now. Were they from Lincoln? I don't recognise any of the band members names. The inner sleeve gives all the relevant information. Finally there is Vick Sinex & The Nasal Sprays who I think were the owners of Playground Studios, A 4-Track studio in Wragby (Lincolnshire) where the whole LP was recorded. Again, at the time this track really annoyed me because the 3 minutes of track time could have been me or Collide or The Void or XS Energy or Sinking Ships or another great Company records group like Com-Sat Angels but no (as Colin Newman once said) we have Vick effing Sinex. Thirty years later and it's a bloody good track. "High Rise Failures (Dub)". That is High Rise as in getting off ones' tits on drugs not tower block. Lincoln only had one tower block back in the 1970's, in Swanpool. Many a Sunday playing in the lifts there! Anyway - "High Rise Failures (Dub)" sounds like The Door & The Window. Excellent stuff.
I love this album, it makes me want to go back to Lincoln.
Sleeve is still shite though.

1: Myself with the mighty "East" LP
2: Last Few Days 7"EP

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Sweet Charity

When it comes to finding secondhand sounds, charity shops (or thrift stores for overseas readers) are third on the list of good sources. Secondhand Record Shops and Record Fairs leading in the top two and perhaps the vinyl stall on a local market or a car boot sale running a fourth. Vinyl stalls on markets are a rarity these days as is vinyl in charity shops. Decent vinyl, not just endless albums by James Last, Jim Reeves, Barbera Striesand and Perry Como, decent records and tapes. Of course Oxfam have there specialist "Music & Books" shops littered about the place (Tavistock, Totnes, Teignmouth and Bath to name a few places here in the South-West) but the pricing in these shops are usually beyond the pale with shop assistants pricing by the (evil) Record Collector guide forgetting the prices mentioned are for MINT copies only.
A vinyl collector never forgets the charity shop bargains. 1990, York Oxfam and Eric Random's "That's What I Like About Me" 12" on New Hormones for a pound and Selby 1993. Religious Overdose's "25 Minutes" 7" on Glass Records for 25p. Picture sleeve too. The same day (in the same shop...where the charity I think was leukemia based) I bought The Lurkers "Ain't Got No Clue" 7" also for 25p, but no picture sleeve. A few years back I was in Cleckheaton and a friend there had just bought the Crisis "Hymns Of Faith" 12" from a charity shop for 75 pence. Luckily for me he hadn't heard of Crisis so gave it to me. I think finding such gems as the aforementioned are now over, but that won't stop me from looking.
The kids love to go charity shop shopping of a Saturday morning, especially Oscar on the look out for Star Wars and Scooby Doo related tat and lo and behold I have bought a couple of items, nothing on the grand scale of a Crisis 12" or an Eric Random LP but nevertheless a feint hope that there is an upturn in the trend. Firstly I found the 7" "New York City" by The Armoury Show (Parlophone, 1987). Bloody awful and perhaps one of the worst 7"'s I have - I say perhaps because I do own "Breathless / Wired For Sound" on 7" by S.P.K. I was curious to hear what The Armoury Show actually sound like, I have read about them in Richard Strange's autobiography and they get a mention in the book I am reading at the moment, "Shadowplayers" by James Nice. I know the work of Richard Jobson & Russell Webb in The Skids, but the only Armoury Show I have heard is Richard Jobson reading a poem on the compilation tape "From Brussels With Love" (Les Disques Du Crepuscule 1981) and here the project is listed as The Armouny Show. Doh! Yesterday I managed to buy a copy of Burzum "Burzum/Aske" CD from The Rowcroft Hospice Shop in Babbacombe. Like The Armoury Show my interest in hearing what Burzum sound like came from reading a book; "Lords Of Chaos" by Michael Moynihan & Didrik Soderlind. I bought the CD "Daudi Baldrs" secondhand off Jase Williams and quite liked what I heard, the sound of soft, orchestral synthesizer compositions took me pleasantly by surprise. "Burzum/Aske" is Death Metal though and the only CD I have in this genre. Black Death Speed Metal. I played it through, it had moments - there's a "riff" on "Spell Of Destruction" that is repeated on "Daudi Baldrs" which is quite pleasant and a nice ambient moment on "Dungeons Of Darkness". Ambient Black Death Speed Metal. I consider the CD a good find and Burzum in a charity shop has restored my "faith" in them and I shall flick through the next pile of vinyl with renewed optimism.

1: "New York City" sleeve by The Armoury Show.
2: "The Armouny Show" page from "From Brussels With Love" booklet.
3: "Burzum/Aske" CD Sleeve.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Nicole 12

Have just spent a pleasant while listening to the latest 7"EP from Finnish project Nicole 12. "First Dance Of The Spring" is released by Freak Animal Records, although the sleeve gives away no clues or catalogue numbers. Nicole 12 is a project of Mikko Aspa, better known (maybe) as Grunt and/or Alchemy Of The 20th Century. Mikko deals in noise, power electronics and noise. He is a master at it!
I have the first couple of Nicole 12 albums on CDr (I think they have received fully blown CD releases now) and the 3" CDrEP "Lolita Love" all classic stuff. I have fallen by the wayside a little with recent Nicole 12 releases (really wanted the Japanese Tour Tape) but after hearing this 7"EP I'm going to get the latest LP. The EP is powerfully structured. First track "Memories Of Her Presence" has the sound of a ghost town, tumbleweed blows across an empty playground, church bells toll in the distance as a squeaky swing blows in the breeze. It's a great picture. The gently whispered vocal sounds like a "paper cutting". Track two "Viola/tion" is frenzied electric guitar over a grinding "industrial" synth drone. Pure Wilkins - straight out of the "Information Overload Unit" songbook. Track three "Pony" is the embodiment of Nicole 12. The purpose of the project. Mikko plays acoustic guitar over a voice of a girl talking about how she was duped into appearing in porno films. We are in Sotos-Land here. The tape does sound a bit "Channel 5" (ie actress) but over a surprising acoustic guitar it holds interest.....punchline is a bit obvious...which made me think...mmmmm Channel 5. The final track is the title piece "First Dance Of The Spring" and again we are in S.P.K. territory, a power electronic pulse digs a groove that is instantly hypnotic, a great joy. Vocals again - grunted and slightly unnecessary...Mikko does have a tendency to adopt Black Metal type vocals but here they are well in the mix to become a distraction. It is a great EP, and if you like old school industrial music or European Power Electronics (like me) then this slab o' vinyl is indispensable. Buy!

I think it was some time in the late 1990's that I came across the work of Mikko Aspa. Alchemy Of The 20th Century compilation appearances then a tape release on the Finnish Kaos-Kontrol label. Alchemy were more ambient, complimenting Mikko's work as part of Temple Of Tiermes. I have seen Mikko play live a few times, the first being 11 years ago as Grunt & Cloama in Finland, the performance was hypnotic with Mikko thrashing oil drums to an electronic drone and a backdrop of the Budd Dwyer suicide. The last time was in London where Mikko was part of Pain Nail, and was the best live sound of that evening.
I think the only two projects of Mikko's I am still non-plussed by are Clinic Of Torture & Harsh, but I'll still keep an ear out for his work.

I bought the Nicole 12 from Martin at Unrest Productions. Recommended.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Judi Spiers

In the 1980's she was "Pebble Mill At One's Judi Spiers" now she is "BBC Radio Devon's Very Own Judi Spiers" and opening charity fetes in Torquay.